Journal: My Respite…..the Bat House – Nov 6, 2017

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When I went in search of a Pine Island sunrise, I found fog, but I also found a gem of a tiny park in the community of Matlacha. This park is called Bat House Park and you can see the Bat House and plaque in these pictures. There are also a few benches, a small number of parking places, and an awesome place to fish in Matlacha Bay.

This bat house is for the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat which can eat up to 3,000 insects each in a night. It’s located at the base of the “fishingest bridge in the world” and is a great use of a tiny pocket of land.

Journal: My Respite….Making it Home

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Do you see the images out there in the fog? Those are shrimp boats in the Matlacha, FL harbor. When I looked at this scene, my thought was “the ghost ships of Matlacha,” but they are not ghosts. They are real fishing boats. I took this picture yesterday morning, through the fog. I had come to Matlacha to take a picture of the sunrise, but it was socked in with fog.

Matlacha is a tiny village adjacent to Pine Island. It was a commercial fishing village turned, now, into an artist’s colony. It is a collection of neon-colored buildings housing art galleries and great restaurants. It’s very much an “old Florida” place and is only one of the villages in the Pine Island complex. I love many of the restaurants in Matlacha and will feature them in this blog as I visit them. Even though there isn’t as much commercial fishing in Matlacha as in the past, the industry still exists there as you can see by the shrimp boats in the fog.

Today, I plan to visit the Island Seafood Market in Matlacha where many of the fishing boats come in for the night. They have some of the best, fresh seafood in the late afternoon that I’ve ever eaten, after the fishing boats unload their fare. The staff is extremely knowledgeable about the seafood and can even tell the novices about preparation. I’ll let you know what I buy and have for dinner in this blog tomorrow!

We had fog yesterday and today. It’s odd for my beautiful island, although it happens occasionally at this time of year. I’m looking forward to the fog clearing so I can go to Matlacha in the early morning and photograph the sunrise, which is as beautiful on Pine Island as the sunset.

Today is a beautiful sunny day on Pine Island. We are trying to figure out what to do about our failing A/C and refrigerator. I’m still trying to unpack and will complete that task today. I also hope to get to the Bokeelia pier to get a new sunset picture in the late afternoon. I have an appointment in Ft. Myers today.

All of this means that I will probably not have time to write until evening. I am a little behind with  my word count for NaNoWriMo, but not much. I hope to catch up tonight.

I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I’ll be here for 5-6 months. That’s a long time to be away. So I’m taking some time to make my place on my island in the sun home.

 

Journal: My Respite…..Really? Nov. 5, 2017

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Life does indeed get in the way, doesn’t it. I’ve been in South Florida only a little over 48 hours. I knew there would be some upfront recovery time from the trip and some upfront time to set up my home again after being gone for many months. I was prepared for all that. I was even prepared for a little hurricane damage. But, my friends who had advised me of the hurricane damage couldn’t know the extent of it.

It seems that dear Hurricane Irma (please notice that I am not cursing though I want to) decided to, more or less, take out our central air conditioning unit as she passed our way. I assume it was water that did it, although there is no way to know now. It is also interesting that, suddenly, the refrigerator is also not working. Water? Probably. But again, no way to know. The hurricane was weeks ago. The moral to the story is if a hurricane is ever in the vicinity of your property, don’t do what I did. Don’t wait weeks to check on it. GO CHECK ON IT right afterwards. Being a hurricane novice, what did I know? So now, I get to purchase a new A/C unit and probably a new refrigerator. Thanks, Irma.

Do you know what it is like in South Florida with minimal A/C and refrigeration? Hell. That’s what it is like. Oops. Cursing. Yesterday, it was 90 degrees here. Yes, in November.

I’m going to talk to FEMA. Not that I think it will do any good at this late date, but a girl can ask, right? Maybe they will at least send someone to check and make an assessment. Next year. That’s how far behind they are running. I have to have A/C and refrigeration NOW, not next year.

Since I am ranting, I will continue! Let me tell you what the news media does NOT report. Bonita Springs, FL is a pretty major community around here. Hurricane Irma was weeks and weeks ago. Bonita Springs is STILL under water!! Has anyone even heard about that!? How can this not be a news story? Apparently, a river in the area came out of its banks and just never receded. ??? I think Bonita Springs needs FEMA and help beyond FEMA. The National Guard? Something? Does the U.S. now just leave our citizens under water?

As you know, I am here for a respite and to write. So far, respite? Zero. Writing? If you’re reading this, you are reading the first thing I’ve written since arriving on my island and it is 3:40 a.m. That might emphasize my day to you.

On the upside, I did visit the pier this evening and was lucky enough to see some friends who I haven’t seen in months there. Beautiful cobalt blue water and the pink aftermath of the sunset. Picture above. The Gulf/Bay was whitecapping tonight.

I forget that it is morning! It may be my morning to try to catch a sunrise. After all, why go to bed now! Sunrise is only 2.5 hours away and a friend told me tonight about a wonderful place to catch it.

Stay tuned…..

 

 

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Florida: The Aftermath

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The final analysis on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma isn’t in yet. In fact, it won’t be in for a long time. Why? Hurricane Irma isn’t over yet. Rain is still falling in northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and….well…rain will  fall in other states due to a low pressure that was Irma where hurricane rains should  never fall. Sandy already grabbed the title of Superstorm and, indeed, it was, so what are we going to call Irma? Surely, it is deserving of a title of something other than “hurricane.” Maybe phenomenon? Natural disaster? I like “force majeure.” Translated “a superior force.” There has never been another hurricane like it in recorded history.

I’m not going to quote figures in this post. I will only say that millions of people had to be evacuated from their homes in Florida and some in other states. I don’t even want to guess at the dollars in property damage not only in South Florida but in northern Florida where such damage was unexpected. As far as the Keys are concerned, the situation there is almost more than I can bear to think about. Rescue and recovery are on their way to some of the Keys that are literally underwater and others with terrible damage. I fear hearing the death toll. I only hope more evacuated than we think. Property damage in the Keys? Unbelievable. I honestly believe we will never know the death toll from Hurricane Irma.

Photos of flooding from Hurricane Irma

Millions of people experienced high levels of stress and anxiety as we watched Irma plod across the Atlantic. We tried to secure belongings and figure out where to go and what to do on a level never seen before. The situation in Houston with Hurricane Harvey was bad enough. Hurricane Irma affected an entire state. More than one state. A natural disaster? Certainly. Some say a natural disaster on a level never before seen in the United States.

From my point of view, a week of my life is gone. Lost to Hurricane Irma, The Weather Channel, and every news channel I could find. I wrote very little, my primary occupation now. I seldom left the vicinity of a computer or television. Thank goodness for my good friends who kept me company and provided sympathy. I wouldn’t have survived the week without them. I have a personal stake in Florida, but my stake is more the people I’ve met in Florida than my own property. More the “old Florida” I’ve grown to know and love than any tourist trap or attraction. I grieved for Florida this past week and will for a long time to come as it will take a long time for Florida to rebuild and recover. I hope to be there, at least some, to help.

The frightening part, at least for me, is that hurricane season isn’t over yet. I have to believe that any other hurricane will be only a pale reminder of Irma. I shouldn’t say that. The oceans are warm, too warm. Monsters are growing in them.

 

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Approaching Florida

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Hurricane Irma is still a Category 5 hurricane at 2:00 a.m., Friday, September 8, with winds at 160 mph. The winds of this historic hurricane stayed at 185 mph for an astonishing 35 hours. Just because they have dropped to 160 does not mean that Hurricane Irma is not as strong as ever. It is still a strong Category 5 hurricane, showing no real signs of weakening. It is currently lashing the Turks and Caicos islands, moving toward the southeastern Bahamas. Puerto Rico did not sustain a direct hit, but it did sustain heavy damage. Irma is approaching South Florida and is expected to arrive there by Saturday evening, with tropical storm force winds possibly arriving earlier.

Since I blogged #HurricaneIrma last night, it has done massive damage to island nations. Hurricane warnings are up for portions of Florida, Cuba, Haiti, and all of the  Bahamas. By morning, hurricane warnings will likely be up for all or most of the state of Florida. Storm surge warnings are up for all of the Bahamas, South Florida, parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and parts of Cuba. Surge amounts vary from 3-5 feet to 15-20 feet, but it is an inexact science.

The projected track of Hurricane Irma has changed since I blogged last night. It is no longer expected to track up the east coast of Florida. Instead, most models put Irma tracking directly up the middle of the peninsula of Florida. Since Irma is such a large hurricane in geographic size, wider than the Florida peninsula, it will affect most of both coasts. Barrier islands off both coasts are under mandatory evacuation orders.

The impact of Hurricane Irma’s effect on the coasts depends on when it makes a northward turn. The closer it gets to the eastern coast of Florida before it makes its turn, the more it will also impact the Gulf coast. If it doesn’t turn until it gets closer to the middle of the state, then both coasts will be impacted. The northeastern side of the hurricane will be most severely impacted with the western side less so. However,  hurricane force winds extend in every direction 75 miles from the center of the hurricane.

Writer’s Note: Once again, I find myself speechless. There seems to be nothing at all to add except this. To anyone reading this still on a barrier island off the Florida coast, if you can still evacuate, please consider doing so. To everyone else in my adopted home for six months of the year, please stay safe.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Leeward Islands

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Hurricane Irma has set a record. It has had sustained winds of over 180 miles per hour for the longest period of time of any Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It has left a horrible path of destruction in its wake through the Caribbean islands. As I write this blog post, it is passing north of Puerto Rico which seems to have escaped the worst of it with the eye off to the north.

The small island of Barbudo has been totally destroyed. From what we can determine, almost every house there has been either totally destroyed or very heavily damaged. The island has only around 1500 people. A cell tower reinforced by steel was snapped in half. The islands of St. Martin and St. Thomas have sustained heavy damage. St. Martin is said to be 95 percent destroyed by observers. Communication is down and full information is not available at the time of this post. The islands of Hispanola and Cuba are next on the agenda. Photos of Hurricane Irma damage

At this time, the path of Hurricane Irma has slightly changed. It is now projected by most forecasters to go up the Atlantic coast of Florida and hug the coast of the Carolinas. The cone of hurricane force and tropical storm force winds extend all the way west to Apalachicola, Florida on the panhandle. The storm is 350 miles wide in one direction and 500 miles wide in the other direction. A few forecasters still think it will veer off into the Gulf of Mexico and go north along the west coast of Florida.

At some point, most forecasters expect Irma to take the turn north. At the time of this post, they thought they were seeing some changes in the eye wall called an eye wall replacement cycle. They think it might be indicative of some weakening, but we will not know that until morning.

Writer’s Note: After viewing some photos of damage to the Caribbean islands, I am shaken. I can’t add personal thoughts to this post, but I encourage you to look at the photos especially if you are in the projected path of the storm. Please evacuate if you are.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – First Day

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The monster came from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The oceans were getting hotter. They were creating these monsters. As it traveled across the Atlantic, the monster gained strength. It was called #HurricaneIrma. Before it reached the Caribbean Sea, it was the strongest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic. If there had been a Category 6, it would have been that. But there wasn’t. Wind gusts over 200 miles per hour. Sustained winds at 185.

I couldn’t bear to look away from the weather maps. It was like watching a train wreck. Maybe like watching the end of a dream. That monster was on a path that seemed to collide with my magical island off the coast of Florida. Unless a miracle happened, it would definitely collide with the state of Florida. If it didn’t weaken, I couldn’t bear to think of what would happen to the big cities. To the people in the big cities. I hoped they all had left, but I knew they hadn’t.

Then, there was my island. This winter was to be the first winter I would spend on my island. I lived at sea level. Not a half mile from the coast. Wind and storm surge were the enemies of my home on the island. Could it survive this storm? Winds of 200 mph unless it slowed down? The answer was no. It could not. It was only a small place. Not that secure. Not that steady. Not hurricane-proof. But enough for me to spend the winter. I knew I would probably not have that chance.

I’d been going to the island for eight years. I’d made friends. People I care about. What about them and their homes? I couldn’t bear to think of it. Of them. As I watched the monster draw closer, it became about them. Some had lived on the island all of their lives. Others for many years. I was a newcomer. Some were going to ride it out on the island. Some were leaving. The thought of those staying on the island scared me to death.

It’s 4:30 a.m. I can’t sleep tonight. My island, my friends, my new home are all in danger. I may never get to spend a winter there. What will it be like after this storm? What will Florida be like?

Stay tuned. I’m blogging #HurricaneIrma.

Travel Florida: Anticipating My Return

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Even though it’s still hot where I live in Kentucky, there are signs everywhere of fall coming. The summer flowers are finished and even some of the fall flowers are looking faded. I live in the forest and a few leaves are starting to fall and they are already colorful. Fall coming at my home in Kentucky means that I’m starting to look forward to going to my home in Florida, on my magical island, for the winter.

I’ve been very busy during this summer in Kentucky. I’ve done a lot of writing and research and very little else. Writing and researching at least twelve hours a day keeps me busy. By the time that twelve hours is over, any writer reading this knows you are ready to drop and fall into your bed. I take breaks. I take my new puppy outdoors and we play. She’s in training so we work on her training exercises. I also take breaks to talk to my friends who have kept me company and great company they are. The summer has passed very fast for me.

Even though I’m still writing and researching and will be until right before we leave here for the winter, I find my mind drifting to my island and my little home there. Even though I love my home in Kentucky, I also love my island. I will be ready to leave here two months from now. The winter months are so wonderful there. The island is still very much “old Florida.” I think part of the reason for that is because it does not have much sandy beach. Any little bits of beach you find, however, are nice, smooth sand and not particularly grainy .

Even though there are a lot of snowbirds on my island, and I am one of them, that certainly doesn’t ruin it for me. Yes, the traffic is bad. Yes, there are waiting lines in the restaurants. But, some of the same snowbirds come back every year and have become my friends. Some of the locals have become my friends and I value all of their friendships.

I miss the ocean! I miss the pier. I miss the wonderful seafood. There is so much about that magical island that I miss. Mostly I miss the way that I feel there. My soul feels like it has found its home.

 

Three Things Thursday

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Three Things Thursday is just a fun little exercise about things we have been grateful  for during the past week. Here goes!

ONE

Going to the pier in Bokeelia, Florida for the last time until fall! I love the ocean and this pier is awesome. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to go to this pier, visit with the wonderful people there, see the fish and birds, and photograph the sunrises and sunsets.

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TWO

Learning about the tropical birds of South Florida. I won’t see these guys again until fall. This is an egret sitting on the banks of the lake behind our place.

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An Egret at the edge of the lake at our house

THREE

Getting back home to Kentucky after being gone for awhile to our island in the sun in Florida. This is a bur oak tree that used to be in our back yard.

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